How the power of words can change lives

Have you ever wondered just how powerful words can be? Well let me tell you a heart warming story to emphasize something I believe to be true.

Not long ago I had lunch with a group of old friends. Nothing unusual about that, you might say.

Even the fact that it was the first time we’d all been together in the same place, at the same time since the summer of 1979 was not exceptional. Such reunions happen all the time, don’t they?

Anyway it was genuinely a pleasure to see them all again and swap stories about how our lives had progressed since those far off days.

However it’s the story of one of my fellow diners that day that’s worthy of sharing with you now because I think it’s a source of inspiration and it reinforces the importance of just how powerful words can be.

Back in those distant days, we were all working together for the national telecommunications operator in Bahrain. Three of us had been young, graduate engineers on an upward career trajectory, with the future seemingly ours for the taking. The other member of our group, let’s call him Saeed, had been the handyman and tea boy in the department at that time.

Saeed was then a teenager, straight out of school. He was a bright and willing fellow but with absolutely no academic qualifications and he spoke very little English at the time. He came from a poor village and his perceived failure at school had left him feeling that he’d blown his chances and was destined for a series of low paid, low skilled jobs.

Fast forward 40 years and Saeed’s now every bit the poor-boy-made-good story.

Not only is he now a wealthy international businessman with two very successful businesses. He also has a string of qualifications including a PhD. Amazingly he’s now completed a second doctorate too.

In short, his success is impressive by any measure.

Nevertheless, how did Saeed get from where he was to where he is now?

The simple answer of course is determination and a lot of hard work. You cannot achieve anything without those ingredients.

However he also needed a reason to believe; a spark to light the fire. And that for me is where the story gets interesting.

Over lunch Saeed explained that it was a kind and encouraging word, all those years ago, from one of our fellow diners that had made him believe that he could make a success of his life, despite a poor start.

My fellow diner in question, let’s call him Tom, didn’t even remember the conversation. However back in the day it seems Tom had explained to Saeed that your future is not defined by your past, it’s an endless stream of opportunities which you can choose to take, or not, and you can make your life whatever you want it to be.

The power of these well-timed words of encouragement had an impact on Saeed so profound that they propelled him down the road to a destiny which otherwise he did not think possible. And in that is the point.

Words can be very powerful, so always choose them wisely.

A few well-timed words can inspire young people. Young people need encouragement more than they need critics.

So next time you’re working with someone in the early stages of life’s journey, remember your words can have the power to encourage them. They also have the potential to discourage them too, if you’re not careful. What you say and how you say it really matters.

Always offer positive words of encouragement, rather than harsh words of criticism.

Never, ever forget how powerful your words can be. The right words really can inspire young people to achieve their full potential.

If you want to leave a legacy behind you; it would be hard to improve on that I think.

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